INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts are trying to improve their running game. Ahmad Bradshaw is just the latest piece of the puzzle.
The Colts signed the unrestricted free agent on Tuesday, adding a veteran running back to their crowded backfield. He will join the team Wednesday.
Terms of the contract weren’t announced, but a league source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter that the deal pays him a $250,000 signing bonus and $1.1 million in base salary.
The 27-year-old Bradshaw spent seven seasons with the New York Giants, but left the team in February — one of a handful of high-salaried players released as part of roster purge intended to clear up salary cap room and bring in younger talent. He ran for 1,015 yards on 221 carries (4.6 yards per carry) and scored six touchdowns last season but missed four games with injuries.
Bradshaw’s focus is rehabbing from right foot surgery in January. He visited the Colts last week and got an evaluation by the team after battling injuries to his knee and foot for much of last year.
“I’m taking it slow right now,” he said. “I’m definitely going to continue my rehab. My focus is just to learn the offense and to get healthy and to be prepared for training camp and the beginning of the season.”
Still, Colts coach Chuck Pagano likes what Bradshaw can add to the team — Super Bowl experience, toughness, and putting up big numbers running the ball.
“Signing a player like Bradshaw, his resume obviously speaks for itself,” Pagano said. “We know he’s coming off foot surgery, he’s trending in the right direction. This guy’s just another horseshoe guy, get us one step closer to hoisting that trophy.”
As the Colts opened their mandatory minicamp, Bradshaw figures to battle with second-year running back Vick Ballard, who led the team in rushing as a rookie, for a prime role in the backfield and with Donald Brown, now in his fifth year. Delone Carter is also in the mix.
“He brings just a veteran presence,” Ballard said of Bradshaw. “He’s won two Super Bowls, so obviously he knows how to get it done. He can not only help the team, but he can help the running back group as a whole.”
Indy now has nine running backs on the roster, including seventh-round draft pick Kerwynn Williams and fullback Stanley Havili, who was acquired in a March trade with Philadelphia. Williams is listed at 5-foot-8, 195 pounds. But the other five backs have a combined total of six NFL carries, all by Havili last season.
In seven seasons with the Giants, Bradshaw played in 84 of 96 games, starting 33 and rushed for 4,232 yards and 32 touchdowns. He is best known for scoring the winning touchdown in the Super Bowl two years ago on an awkward flop. The play gave the Giants a 21-17 victory over New England.
Other than drafting Williams in the seventh round and trading for Havili, the Colts didn’t make any significant moves in the backfield.
Pagano has made a point to make the running game stronger and more balanced and have made moves to get there. Last year, Indy was No. 22 in the league rushing at 104.4 yards a game. Pagano said he’s wanted a solid rushing attack from day one. As a rookie last year, Ballard led the team in rushing with 50.9 yards a game and just two touchdowns. Bradshaw knows Ballard has earned a big role with the Colts, but wants a shot at the top spot, too.
“I like having the load on my back,” he said. “But Vick, he’s proved himself and I don’t mind coming in and helping those guys out as much as I can.”
Indy spent much of the offseason fortifying its defense and an offensive line that gave up far too many hits on Andrew Luck last season. The Colts signed nine veteran free agents including right tackle Gosder Cherilus and guard Donald Thomas. Those are just additions to an already experienced front lineup that includes tackle Anthony Castonzo who is “perfecting technique” to help the game on the ground.
“Every lineman loves the run game,” he said. “If you can get into the game and control the run game and just pass when you have to, that’s the best game for the offensive line. Everybody loves the run game.”
So what’s the identity the Colts would like to instill? Castonzo recalled last year’s 19-13 overtime win against the Tennessee Titans where Indy had a more balanced game with 171 yards rushing and 297 passing.
Sure, Indy showed spurts of success running the ball last year, but never found consistency running the ball. This season, it’s a must.
“We have to get it going,” receiver T.Y. Hilton said. “You can’t be one dimensional and just pass because defenses will sit on that. Once we get Vick, Donald and the running game going, we should be excellent.”
And now Bradshaw, who will just add to the mix.
“I feel this offense is young and they need a spark and I can be that spark they can use,” he said. “With me, I feel that I can touch the ball every down and be effective.”